Meathead has beaten the Marlboro Man.
Actor-director Rob Reiner declared victory Wednesday for the ballot measure he authored that raises California's tobacco taxes to fund children's programs. A pack of cigarettes, for example, will cost 50 cents more beginning next year."It was a very, very tough fight," Reiner told a small cheering crowd at the UCLA Child Care Services facility. "We had, unfortunately, a very formidable foe in the tobacco industry. The voters of this state are smart enough to see through their lies and vote for our children."
The announcement came one week after voters cast ballots in the hotly contested measure that proved to be one of the closest races of the Nov. 3 general election.
Proposition 10 was approved by a margin of just 57,070 votes from more than 7.6 million ballots counted.
About one-third of the estimated 850,000 late absentee and provisional ballots remained uncounted, but the initiative's lead has grown steadily since the election.
Proposition 10, a constitutional amendment, was designed to generate an estimated $700 million annually for social services aimed at families with children under age 5, including prenatal care, stop-smoking programs, immunizations and domestic violence prevention.
Reiner, perhaps best known in the role of Meathead from TV's "All in the Family," said political activists around the country have been calling to discuss plans for similar efforts in their states.
"California is a bellwether state," he said. "What happens here has national implications."
Tobacco companies had contributed about $28.5 million to oppose Proposition 10. About $20 million of that came from Phillip Morris Inc., maker of Marlboro cigarettes.
Opponents conceded defeat Wednesday.